Unformatted text preview: e he had first noticed the two grim women who
held his life and Elsie's in their evil talons.
He said aloud:
"Curse them! Damn them for a pair
of devilish blood-sucking harpies!"
A slight cough made him spin round. He
found himself facing the luxuriantly
moustached stranger who had just come
out from the shade of the trees.
Harold found it difficult to know what
to say. This little man must have almost
certainly overheard what he had just said.
Harold, at a loss, said somewhat
"Oh -- er -- good-afternoon."
In perfect English the other replied:
"But for you, I fear, it is not a good
"Well -- er -- I -- " Harold was in difficulties
The little man said:
"You are, I think, in trouble. Monsieur ?
Can I be of any assistance to you ?"
"Oh no thanks, no thanks! Just blowing
off steam, you know."
The other said gently: "But I think, you know, that I could help
you. I am correct, am I not, in connecting
your troubles with two ladies who were
sitting on the terrace just now ?"
Harold stared at him.
"Do you know anything about them?"
He added: 'Who are you, anyway?3'
As though confessing to royal birth the
little man said modestly:
"/ am Hercule Poirot. Shall we walk
a little way into the wood and you shall
tell me your story ? As I say, I think I can
To this day, Harold is not quite certain
what made him suddenly pour out the
whole story to a man to whom he had only
spoken a few minutes before. Perhaps
it was overstrain. Anyway, it happened.
He told Hercule Poirot the whole story.
The latter listened in silence. Once or
twice he nodded his head gravely. When
Harold came to a stop the other spoke
"The Stymphalean Birds, with iron beaks, who feed on human flesh and who
dwell by the Stymphalean Lake. . . . Yes,
it accords very well.35
"I beg your pardon," said Harold
Perhaps, he thought, this curious-looking
little man was mad!
Hercule Poirot smiled.
"I reflect, that is all. I have my own way
of looking at things, you understand. Now
as to this business of yours. You are very
Harold said impatiently:
"I don't need you to tell me that!"
Hercule Poirot went on:
"It is a serious business, blackmail.
These harpies will force you to pay — and
pay—and pay again! And if you defy
them, well, what happens ?"
Harold said bitterly:
"The whole thing comes out. My
career's ruined, and a wretched girl who's
never done anyone any harm will be put
through hell, and God knows what the end
of it all will be!" "Therefore," said Hercule Poirot,
"something must be done!"
Harold said baldly: "What ?"
Hercule Poirot leaned back, half-closing
his eyes. He said (and again a doubt of his
sanity crossed Harold's mind) :
"It is the moment for the castanets
"Are you quite mad ?55
The other shook h...
View Full Document